Lambert to Liverpool and 12 other big moves for British veterans

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Following Rickie Lambert’s move to Liverpool, I, along with Hugo Greenhalgh and Greg Johnson, remembered 12 other experienced British players who signed for big clubs…

Who are your favourite Indian Summer signings? Which twilight moves did we miss out that deserved to make our list? Let us know in the comments below.

David Platt, Sampdoria to Arsenal, 1995

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Best remembered for his volley against Belgium in the 1990 World Cup, David Platt shot to continental acclaim in the early 90s as a goal-scoring midfielder.  After spells at Bari and Juventus, Platt spent two seasons at Sampdoria under Sven-Goran Eriksson. Having just signed Dennis Bergkamp for £7.5 million, Arsenal manager Bruce Rioch swooped to bring in Platt (then 29) for a further £4.75 million to add some attacking flair. Rioch was sacked after one season but Platt was used by Arsene Wenger as an experienced head to play alongside a 20-year-old Patrick Vieria in midfield. He featured mostly from the bench in the Double-winning season of 1997-8 but did score the crucial winner in the 3-2 victory against Manchester United at Highbury. Hugo Greenhalgh

Scott Parker, West Ham United to Tottenham Hotspur, 2011

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Having won critical acclaim for his “brave” yet futile performances as the plucky hero in West Ham’s relegation dog-fight demise in 2011, Scott Parker’s move to Harry Redknapp’s Tottenham Hotspur seemed too good to be true. The mainstream English football press’ favourite footballer was joining up their favourite “top bloke” manager, in the sort of feel good, common-sense-ception worthy of the love child of Christopher Nolan and Danny Dyer. For all the potential snark over their coming together at White Hart Lane however, Parker proved to be an excellent addition to Redknapp’s rampant yet ramshackle title race contenders. He added the quintessential qualities that won him his player of the season awards in 2011—legs, heart and pluck—to the virtuoso control of Luka Modric, and the pace and penetration of Gareth Bale. Though Spurs inevitably fell away, it was a fitting flirt with glory for such a likeable player whose career never quite reached the heights it looked like it would when Roman Abramovich’s Chelsea purchased him from Charlton Athletic for £10 million in 2004. After stints with Newcastle United and West Ham, he finally got the billing he deserved in North London, with a surge deep into the knock out stages of the Champions League to boot. Greg Johnson

Sol Campbell, Unattached to Arsenal, 2010

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When it was announced in late 2009 that Campbell was back training at Arsenal, few anticipated he would be starting for the club in the Champions League a few months later. Brought in to offer defensive cover, the 35 year-old ended up making 14 appearances in his second spell at Arsenal. What Campbell lacked in mobility, he made up for in leadership and determination. No one celebrated more than the former England international when Arsenal came from behind to beat Stoke 3-1 at the Britannia on the day Aaron Ramsey had his leg broken. Still, this signing seems no less bizarre now as it did four years ago. HG

Paul Scholes, unattached (retired) to Manchester United, 2012

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While not a transfer as such, Paul Scholes’ return from retirement for Manchester United certainly deserves a mention, if only due to the impact made by the then 38-year-old on after reversing his decision to end his playing days. He made his comeback debut as a substitute in the 3-2 FA Cup win over Manchester City in in January 2012, having been secretly re-registered as a player with the FA by Alex Ferguson, who even kept the information from his own squad until the day of the derby. The naming of Scholes on the bench for the game reportedly boosted the morale of the dressing room and helped fuel the team’s winning performance. However, while there was plenty of romance in his return, the veteran playmaker’s re-emergence within the in the first team is said to have played its part in alienating Paul Pogba, who later moved on to Juventus rather than wait for a chance at United. Scholes did however help his team to another league title the following season, to cap off his career for a second-time with an eleventh Premier League winner’s medal. GJ

Robbie Fowler, Manchester City to Liverpool, 2006

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The return of “God” was scarcely believable on Merseyside. He was the local lad come good – utterly synonymous with the Spice Boys era – 171 goals in nine seasons before being unsanctimoniously shipped off by Gerard Houllier in November 2001. His return to Anfield in January 2006, at the age of 30, was as unexpected as his initial departure had been acrimonious. Fowler described his return as like “a kid waking up on Christmas morning every day”, and it’s safe to say his adoring fans felt similarly. The England striker had scored only 41 times in the five-and-a-half seasons since departing Anfield, but it was his eye for goal which appealed to Rafa Benitez; his influence viewed as vital upon a misfiring strike force of Djibril Cisse, Fernando Morientes and Peter Crouch. In an ironic twist of fate “God” had three goals disallowed before eventually breaking his duck against Fulham, the same opponents against whom he’d scored five on his first-team debut in September 1993. He went on to score important winning goals as the Reds secured a top-three finish, before playing a bit-part role in the 2006-7 season and eventually departing again, but this time, significantly, under his own terms. James Dutton

Emile Heskey, Wigan Athletic to Aston Villa, 2009

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Aston Villa’s capture of Emile Heskey back in 2009 seemed like a surprise master-stroke made in plain sight, with Martin O’Neil turning a player, who to many had seemed to have become an irrelevance, back into an almost obvious transfer target after the fact. The former Leicester City, Liverpool, Birmingham and Wigan target man hardly evolved his game at Villa Park, but he did enjoy something of a mini-revival in the West Midlands. Once again surrounded by quality players, he looked like a potent Premier League weapon in O’Neil’s quest for Europe rather than the awkward, lower-table anachronism many had written him off as previously. Heskey remained with the Villains for three years before moving down under to to play for Newcastle Jets in the Australian A-League where he continues to play as a main draw foreign import alongside Alessandro Del Piero. GJ

Teddy Sheringham, Tottenham Hotspur to Manchester United, 1997

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He may have arrived as a salve to stem the flow of goals and experience from Manchester United’s attacking ranks following the abdication of King Eric Cantona in 1997, but Teddy Sheringham didn’t take to life at Old Trafford as quickly as his distinguished predecessor. The veteran striker—who was already 31 years old at the time of the switch—ended his first season in the North West without a trophy. For a player whose senior career had begun in 1983 with Millwall, and included stints with Aldershot, Djurgårdens of Stockholm, Nottingham Forest and Spurs, failing to secure his first major honours was more than a disappointment. Sheringham was running out of time. Counter-intuitively, it would take a slide out of Sir Alex Ferguson’s first team plans before he could establish himself as hero in red, and grab the silverware he craved.  In the 1999 FA Cup final, he came off the bench to score the opener against Newcastle United and, days later, arrived on the field, again as a late substitute, to fire home the game-changing, extra-time equaliser in the Champions League final against Bayern Munich. After a season largely spent on the sidelines, and a career spent just outside of the gold medal places, he had become an iconic part of the treble and secured every major honour open to a Premier League footballer, all in the space of a week. He capped off his stay at United with arguably his finest season as a professional footballer in 2000-01, finishing as the club’s top scorer in the league and winning the PFA, FWA and Sir Matt Busby awards for Footballer of the Year. GJ

Craig Bellamy, Manchester City to Liverpool, 2011

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Bellamy had unfinished business on Merseyside. Brought to Anfield by Rafa Benitez in the summer of 2006, the Welshman had largely disappointed and frustrated. A return of nine goals in 41 games, with one coming at the Nou Camp, was overshadowed by the famous incident involving John-Arne Riise and a golf club. Eventually sold to raise funds for the signing of Fernando Torres, Bellamy was unexpectedly re-signed by Kenny Dalglish, one of the few bits of transfer business that the Scot exceeded in during the summer of 2011. This was not the explosive, pacey forward that arrived at Anfield five years earlier – this was a more mature Bellamy. His reputation was restored by this second season, during which he scored seven goals in seven starts, and was a monumental figure in Liverpool’s Carling Cup semi-final second-leg against Manchester City, scoring the decisive goal against his old club, to drag his boyhood club to Wembley. JD

Michael Owen, unattached to Manchester United, 2009

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A Ballon d’Or winner in 2001, Michael Owen had to fashion a promotional catalogue to remind potential suitors of his qualities in 2009 as he looked to move on from Newcastle United, where fitness problems had curtailed his playing time. Having emerged as one of the most exciting English strikers of the last few decades as a youngster with Liverpool, eye brows were raised at a rate of knots when Manchester United eventually came calling for the unattached, injury-prone and, in the eyes of many, obsolete poacher. Given his previous status as a cult hero to their most fierce rivals—and a menace of past United defences—he wasn’t exactly a popular player with the fans of his new club. Even after his last-gasp winner against Manchester City in a dramatic Manchester derby, that ended 4-3 in the Reds’ favour, many struggled to find a place in their hearts for the former Real Madrid striker. His reputation as a charisma-less, horse-racing bore hardly helped him to fill out the No. 7 shirt either, whose list of previous owners included none other than Eric Cantona and Cristiano Ronaldo. In 2012 he left for Stoke City, still dividing opinion amongst fans after a relatively successful three-year spell in which he collected League Cup and Premier League winner’s medals in 2010 and 2011 respectively. The injuries never did stop coming for Owen however, who may have been able to persuade a few more doubtors had he been more available to play. GJ

Gary McAllister, Coventry City to Liverpool, 2000

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A bosman arrival from Coventry in 2001, Gerard Houllier’s move for the 35-year old McAllister was greeted with a fair amount of scepticism by Liverpool supporters. But those initial concerns were to be spectacularly dismissed as McAllister played an extraordinary role in the club’s pursuit of a cup treble. A UEFA Cup semi-final winning penalty against Barcelona, a 40-yard free-kick winner in the fourth minute of stoppage time of a Merseyside derby, and  a hand in three of the five goals that saw Liverpool triumph in the UEFA Cup final against Alaves. Houllier later described the veteran as his “most inspirational signing”, and few Kopites would disagree. JD

Owen Hargreaves, unattached to Manchester City, 2011

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A technically and tactically sound midfielder born in Canada and trained in Germany, Owen Hargreaves was never going to be your average English international. Often played out of position, or thrown on at inopportune moments to fight fires and chase lost causes by Sven Goran-Eriksen, he was a widely unpopular player amongst sections of the press and supporters until the 2006 World Cup. Finally, used as the player to add some composed and intelligent balance to the mad-cap antics of Steven Gerrard and Frank Lampard, his quality shined through, winning the England Player of the Year award for that year. A year later he was snapped up by Manchester United for £17 million, driving their midfield on to win the 2008 Champions League—a trophy that would be the pinnacle of his career, prior to a seemingly endless run of long-term injuries that eventually saw him released in 2011. Like Michael Owen, the midfielder produced his PR materials in the shape of a series of YouTube videos displaying his progress rehabilitating himself in the gym, and like his former England team mate, Hargreaves soon caused a stir by signing up with United’s cross-town rivals, Manchester City. Even after labelling his treatment at Old Trafford as akin to being a “guinea pig” however, the fitness problems continued. He managed only one league game for the sky blues, although he did score an almost screamer from range against Birmingham City in the League Cup on his debut. He was released by the club in 2012. GJ

Joe Cole, Chelsea to Liverpool, 2010

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Joe Cole was 28 when Liverpool, or more specifically managing director Christian Purslow – the “Fernando Torres of Finance” – handed him a four year contract worth in the region of £20m. The 28-year old Cole was a pale shadow of the dynamic playmaker he had been at Chelsea, whose skills Steven Gerrard favourably compared to Lionel Messi. Cole arrived at Liverpool withered and broken, not so much able to play between the lines as jog around for 10 minutes without pausing for breath, his lungs heaving, his hands on his hips. Sent off on his debut against Arsenal, and soon after injured, Cole did not fit into Roy Hodgson’s two banks of four, but neither could he figure in the more free-flowing spring days of Kenny Dalglish’s caretaker managership. He was loaned out for a season to Lille before returning, when even Brendan Rodgers couldn’t help the England international recapture his form, talent or legs. Four years now since his arrival at Anfield, Cole has been released by his boyhood club West Ham, and looks destined for the scrapheap. JD

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